For 2020 Census, Cities Face Hurdles Finding People to Count

In many cities, people are living in places that are hard to locate. But accurate census counts are crucial to ensuring cities get their fair share of political power and funding.

October 30, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink


U.S. Census Bureau

Maria Dryfhout / Shutterstock

Emily Badger reports on concerns about undercounting in the 2020 census and the importance of capturing the right numbers. The problems are particularly acute in places with immigrant communities and large numbers of relocated residents, such as New York and California. Locating residents living in converted garages or temporary housing situations can be challenging since these units are often unmarked or hidden.

"Cities must find all these households before they even get to the second challenge: persuading the people who live in them, many of them immigrants, to participate in the census," says Badger. Residents fearful of immigration raids and deportation are harder to reach and less inclined to speak with census workers.

But accurate counts are essential since federal funding and access to resources are tied to population numbers. “City officials [in San Jose, California,] believe the 2010 count of 945,942 residents missed as many as 70,000 residents, costing the city about $20 million annually in lost resources,” notes Badger.

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